Since the dissolution of his former Sandwell District collective in the late noughties, under his Silent Servant alias John Mendez has emerged as one of the most distinctive producers currently operating amongst the Los Angeles techno scene. In particular, it’s his incorporation of industrial, EBM and post-punk influences into his production aesthetic that has lent his music to a distinctly black clad dancefloor crowd located well outside the conventional techno scene.
While he’s remained prolific on the 12” front recently, it’s been six years since he released his debut album ‘Negative Fascination’, meaning that this long awaited follow-up ‘Shadows Of Death And Desire’ arrives amidst considerable levels of anticipation. Running in at a lean 29 minutes in total length, there’s a sense of this being a mini-album, though in this case I suspect that Mendez has taken his cue from the concise single LP statements that have made up the backbone of post-punk’s distinctive lineage.
As is customary for his productions, there’s a sense of a minimal palette of elements being used in a way that’s maximal and immersive. ‘Loss Response’ opens with a spectral wash of synths that recalls Blade Runner’s ruined dystopian landscapes, before a percussive metallic rhythm locks down amidst the melancholic drones, the rattling 4/4 snares and kickdrums evoking the sense of gliding by train through some icy landscape as the machine pulse hammers away.
If the aforementioned track hints at the unspecified personal trauma that apparently inspired this album, ‘Glass Veil’ turns up the dancefloor energy as distorted snares snap away against dark EBM bass arpeggios, the background synth arrangements building into vast walls against the flexing electro rhythms. ‘Harm In Hand’ suggests Nitzer Ebb more than anything else as Mendez’s stream of consciousness spoken word vocal gets echoed and stuttered amidst a surging rush of EBM bass sequences and thundering kickdrums – indeed, it’s easily one of the most furiously satisfying offerings here.
Elsewhere, ‘Optimistic Decay’ sees Mendez stripping away the dancefloor elements in favour of a sparse post-punk wander through tense tribal drums and moody basslines that suggests a more streamlined electronic take on Bauhaus as Tropic Of Cancer’s Camella Lobo contributes an ethereal 4AD-esque guest vocal. As a concise slice of edgy post-punk / EBM informed electronics, ‘Shadows Of Death And Desire’ sees Mendez continuing to hone his craft to even more impressive levels.